Cluster feeding - what is it, what to expect and how long does it last (2023)

Cluster feeding is a term you’ll no doubt hear about as a new mum, as feeding is - along with sleep - a huge topic of discussion among parents of newborns.

These first few weeks - which some people call the ‘newborn bubble’ are a great time to get to know your baby, especially while you're both working out how to breastfeed. Where possible, try to ensure that feeds are limited to parents or main caregivers, keep your baby close to you, and embrace skin-on-skin contact. These steps will all help the baby to feel more secure and really bond you together.

And, while all newborns need to eat every 2–3 hours in the first few weeks of life, sometimes it may seem that baby suddenly wants to feed more often than before. This has been termed cluster feeding, it’s nothing to worry about, even though cluster feeding is exhausting, it's normal and a phase that will pass.Breastfeeding expert and author Rachel Fitz-Desorgher tells us; “Cluster feeding is a very modern term, and was first coined by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) in around 2010 before that [midwives] just talked about evening crying behavior - in many breastfeeding manuals it will be referred to 3-month colic or sporadic crying behavior.”

Find out more below, on what cluster feeding is, how you navigate it as a new parent and what experts really think of the term...

Cluster feeding - what is it?

Cluster feeding is a term given to a pattern of feeding, when baby seems to demand feeds closer together during a similar time frame each day, usually late afternoon or early evening. These are usually for short periods, where baby detaches from the breast and then reattaches while fussing. Many experts believe that cluster feeding usually happens in early development when they are going through a significant growth spurt.


Registered midwife at My Expert Midwife, Lesley Bland (opens in new tab) tells us, "advice from healthcare professionals is to ensure baby has 8-12 feeds in a 24 hour period. But what you may not know is that some of those feeds will be clustered together, and that this type of feeding pattern is more likely to happen on an evening or at night, although can still happen during the day."

If your baby is having a lot of short feeds close together over a few hours, you are cluster feeding. If you are cluster feeding, you might also find that your baby: has short rests or sleeps between these feeds. The act of cluster feeding usually happens during the first 3 to 4 months. It's when your baby wants to be close to you more frequently (sometimes constantly) over a period of time - this could be to feed, or it could be to merely suckle and feel calm. It's very normal and nothing to be concerned about. Your baby may want to cluster feed during the day or night (or a bit of both).

Cluster feeding in newborns - what does that look like?

In the early days following birth your baby will be working really hard to establish a milk supply to meet their needs - sometimes different breastfeeding positions (opens in new tab) can help. Lesley tells us; "Commonly, the first 24 hours will be quite slow on the breastfeeding front but just wait for the next day and night. The second night is famed for babies tending to want to feed constantly but why? Well, quite simply, your baby has woken up from their post-birth exhaustion and are aware that they need fuel."

Your milk, however, usually doesn’t come in until day three or four, "so there’s a period when your newborn will have to work their little socks off to stimulate the breast tissue to meet their increasing demands," Lesley says. "Over the next few days (possibly weeks) until your milk supply meets baby’s demands you are likely to experience bouts of cluster feeding."

Baby may also increase their demands during growth spurts which typically happen around 2-3 weeks, 3 months and 6 months old so don’t be surprised if you find your baby reinstating those cluster feeds again.

(Video) Cluster Feeding: What to Do When Baby Wants to Eat CONSTANTLY

Cluster feeding can be tricky for parents to spot as newborns don't tend to show a predictable eating or sleeping schedule - it's very baby led with parents meeting needs as and when. However if you're baby fits the below they may be cluster feeding.

  • Baby is no older than a few weeks
  • Baby won’t stop crying until they’re fed
  • It seems they feed very frequently for short sessions each time
  • nothing else seems wrong and they’re content when eating
  • they have regular wet anddirty diapers

Cluster feeding tends to happen more in the evenings. If your baby is older though, there may be several days in a row when they feed more than usual across a day. This could be down to a growth spurt or looking for comfort while teething.

What causes the cluster feeding response?

Truth be told, experts don’t fully understand why babies cluster feed. And there are many unproven theories. Though it seems to be unanimous that cluster feeding probably meets a combination of needs that your baby has at this developmental stage.

"There are several theories as to why babies appear fussier and want to feed more often on an evening, one of them involving Prolactin," Lesley tells us. "This is the hormone responsible for telling the breasts to produce more milk. Prolactin levels peak during the night and in the early hours meaning that biologically babies will take advantage of those peaks and top themselves us whilst the milk is freely available."

Psychotherapist and author ofThe Happy Sleeper Heather Turgeon (opens in new tab) agrees; “Cluster feeding is likely a way for babies, who have maturing nervous systems, to regulate. What we do know about breastfeeding is that it’s a supply and demand system. When little babies want to feed, that’s a good sign and we should let them, because trying to schedule or space feedings out doesn’t give that supply and demand system the right feedback."

(Video) Cluster Feeding - Reasons & Tips to Manage It

“So even though there are theories about why baby might cluster feed, what matters is that we let baby do it — it establishes and maintains mom’s milk supply.”

Cluster feeding can be exhausting and leave you wondering when to stop breastfeeding (opens in new tab). You may hear people stressing the importance of a schedule for baby, but cluster feeding is a normal part of the development of many babies. Your baby may cluster feed as a result of feeling overtired, and over-stimulated paired with the fact that they have an immature nervous system - being only a few months old - being a brand new human is hard work.

How long does cluster feeding last?

Cluster feeding ages vary for each baby, but it usually happens around 3 weeks and 6 weeks, when they have growth spurts. It may last for a few days at a time. Talk to a lactation consultant if cluster feedings spans much longer because your child might not be consuming enough calories.

Lesley explains, "Cluster feeding can last throughout the duration of your breastfeeding journey but is likely to ebb and flow. Cluster feeds can last a few days or even weeks until the milk production is at the right level for the demands of your baby. You can expect cluster feeding to happen at various developmental stages such as periods of intense growth or when they start to crawl, walk and generally enter a new phase of their lives and need more fuel ‘in’ to compensate for the energy ‘out’. The most important thing to remember is that your baby knows exactly what they are doing and although it may seem like it lasts forever, it doesn’t and it is a normal stage of breastfeeding."

How to manage cluster feeding?

Get to know your baby and recognise their cues. Learn - through observing - the difference between y our baby’s hunger cues and soothing cues. Before assuming hunger, try some skin-to-skin time, or other soothing methods, baby might really just want to be with you. And, remember babies have immature systems and can be overstimulated easily. Sooth your baby, feed your baby if needed, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you can. Clusters usually don't last long...

(Video) Cluster Feeding- What To Expect

You can cluster-feed formula milk, and it's important not to overfeed. Watch your baby and follow the cues for when they need a break. These signs will be different from one baby to the next, but may look like;

  • Splay their fingers and toes
  • Spill milk out of their mouth
  • Stop sucking
  • Turn their head away
  • Push the bottle away
  • Fall asleep at the end of the feed
  • Stay hydrated. Keep water and snacks handy, your nourishment is just as important!
  • Change positions as needed so you don’t get muscle aches or sore nipples.
  • Plan ahead – if your baby is often waking and cluster feeding at similar times each evening, mentally and physically prepare for this time.
  • Have some entertainment handy. Netflix, podcasts, music.
  • Skin to skin and if not possible then use a baby carrier
  • Cluster feeding can be exhausting. When you’ve finished feeding, pass baby to a partner or loved one to settle if needed.

When is cluster feeding considered ‘normal’?

Cluster feeding can start in the first few days after birth and continue for much of the first year of life. It will often reappear when baby is going through growth spurt or developmental leap.

  • When it lasts during a limited time period of 3-4 hours in 24 hours.
  • The breastfeeding mother’s milk has come in and it’s an adequate supply.
  • When it happens alongside baby creating plenty of dirty and wet diapers.
  • Baby is gaining enough weight.

When is cluster feeding not normal?

All babies are different and all family set-ups vary however pay attention to the below to make sre that your baby’s frequent feeding isn’t flagging up anything that might require advice from your doctor.

  • A baby who is breastfeeding non-stop, despite having a perfect latch and swallowing confirmed before the onset of copious milk production in the hospital.
  • A baby who cries endlessly unless they are breastfeeding and continues to exhibit hunger cues.
  • A baby who is jaundiced becomes lethargic or has tremors after long periods of non-stop nursing, or at ANY time.
  • A baby who has a 7 percent weight loss at any time.

If you are unsure about any of these listed, contact your Health visitor or paediatrician.

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(Video) Cluster Feeding: What to Do When Baby Wants to Eat CONSTANTLY

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Video of the Week:


Cluster feeding - what is it, what to expect and how long does it last? ›

Cluster feeding is a time when your baby wants lots of short feeds over a few hours. It's normal and often happens in the early days of breastfeeding. Cluster feeding is a normal behaviour for your baby. It's more common in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can happen anytime of the day.

How long should cluster feeding last? ›

It absolutely will not last forever. Usually, cluster feeding resolves within 2-3 days after starting. Also, a few helpful things to remember when cluster feeding is feeling endless: Cluster feeding occurs around developmental milestones — your baby's body is doing important things!

What are the stages of cluster feeding? ›

Cluster feeding ages typically align with growth spurts and occur at three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months. That said, the first three weeks of newborn cluster feeding is often the longest consistent stretch and the most intense for parents.

How long does cluster feeding last in the beginning? ›

Cluster feeding usually happens during the first 3 to 4 months. It's when your baby wants to feed even more frequently (sometimes constantly) over a period of time. It's very normal and nothing to be concerned about. Your baby may want to cluster feed during the day or night (or a bit of both).

How do you survive cluster feeding? ›

To make cluster feeding easier you can:
  1. relax and follow your baby's lead.
  2. feed to their need.
  3. look forward to a sleepy, settled baby after feeding.
  4. try to rest in the early part of the day to prepare.
  5. drink lots of water.
  6. make sure you eat well — don't miss meals.
  7. get as much family and partner support as you can.

How do you know if it's cluster feeding? ›

Your baby may be cluster feeding if: they're a few days or weeks old. they're showing their usual hunger signs or won't stop crying until they're fed. they want to eat constantly or they eat very frequently for short sessions each time.

Can a pacifier help with cluster feeding? ›

Can a pacifier help with cluster feeding? If you're already using a pacifier, you know how much of a saint these tiny devices can be. This is especially true during cluster-feeding periods. Not only can they help soothe a fussy baby, but it can help parents distinguish between cluster feeding and comfort.

Can you run out of milk during cluster feeding? ›

Cluster feeding doesn't mean you don't have enough milk. However, some parents are concerned that they may not be producing enough milk for their baby during cluster feeding episodes. If you are in such a situation, be sure to: Stay hydrated.

How often do you feed during cluster feeding? ›

Some babies may want to nurse every 30 minutes to an hour in the evenings. This is normal, and it does not mean your baby isn't getting enough milk. It may just be your baby's way of filling up before a longer sleep at night.

Do babies sleep longer after cluster feeding? ›

Do babies sleep longer after cluster feeding? Some babies may sleep longer after cluster feeding because they're going through a growth spurt. This can feel exhausting – to both mom and baby! So a little extra zzz's due to cluster feeding is a good thing.

What is second night syndrome? ›

Second Night Syndrome

Generally occurs about 24 hours after birth for almost every baby. Your baby will want to be on the breast constantly but quickly fall asleep. If you put him down, he will probably wake up. If you put him back to breast, he will feed for a short time and fall asleep.

Can cluster feeding last all night? ›

Cluster feeding may last just a couple days or it can last for a few weeks. Only your baby will decide that — it will know when and for how long it needs more milk.

Do babies get fussy when cluster feeding? ›

It's normal for your baby to become fussy during periods of cluster feeding. Tips for coping with fussy feeding: Be aware that this is normal behaviour that will pass. Your baby may be looking for cuddles and comfort.

Is cluster feeding the same as not getting enough milk? ›

Cluster feeding IS NOT an indication that you aren't making enough milk. It's nature's way of getting you and your baby through their growth spurts, illnesses, or teething stages. Stick to feeding on demand and soak up the extra baby snuggles.

Why is cluster feeding bad? ›

There is nothing wrong with cluster feeding (it's not a sign of anything dangerous). Some babies are more likely to eat this way before a long nap or during growth spurt phases. Usually, cluster feeding occurs with breastfeeding babies, but formula-fed babies can also cluster feed.

How do you sleep train a cluster feeding baby? ›

Because your goal is to help your baby sleep at night, the best time to encourage a cluster feed is between 4 p.m. and bedtime. So if your baby starts crying 60 minutes after a feeding, calm her with the 5 S's and then see how she acts. If she's opening her mouth and searching for a nipple, give a little more milk.

How do I know if my baby is pacifying or nursing? ›

If your baby seems to be getting enough milk, but continues to suck for an hour or more, your little one might be nursing for comfort rather than for nourishment. This is called non-nutritive sucking or pacifying.

What is the difference between cluster feeding and comfort feeding? ›

It often happens during a baby's fussy period of the day. Cluster feeding is a phrase that sometimes is also called “comfort-feeding.” As parents, we react to infant cries and feeding cues, so naturally, we will assume a baby is hungry and when we feed them, they will be satisfied.

Should I pump between cluster feedings? ›

During periods of cluster feeding and growth spurts, it is important to continue breastfeeding on-demand and allowing your little one to decide when they have had enough to eat. Be sure to continue drinking plenty of water and consider incorporating powering pumping into your routine.

What is the witching hour cluster feeding? ›

Babies often want to eat more often in the evenings, leading them to fuss during the witching hour because they want to eat – sometimes as often as every 30 minutes. This cluster feeding may be an attempt to fill up before a night of sleep.

Can cluster feeding cause gas? ›

Why Do “Cluster Feeds” Cause More Gas? Every time the baby eats, their stomach contents produce acidity and digestive juices. The more often they eat, the more often the digestive issues, including the acidity are produced, which can increase gassiness and fussiness.

What is the hardest week of a newborn? ›

Most people find the first six to eight weeks to be the hardest with a new baby. And, although people may not openly discuss many of the challenges in these early weeks of parenthood (if at all), there are a number of common hurdles you may face at this time.

What night is hardest with newborn? ›

The first 24 hours or so of your newborn's life is often full of blissful baby snuggles, long naps and establishing eating as they recover from their birth journey. However, night two can sometimes be jolting to some families. Night two can bring way more crying that the first 24 hours.

How do you survive a sleepless night with a newborn? ›

Here are some tips that may help you feel more rested.
  1. Sleep when your baby sleeps. ...
  2. Get an early night. ...
  3. Share the nights if you can. ...
  4. Ask friends and relatives for extra support. ...
  5. Understand your baby's sleep patterns. ...
  6. Try to do more exercise. ...
  7. Try relaxation exercises. ...
  8. Do not let stress get on top of you.

Should I keep baby swaddled during night feedings? ›


If your baby is swaddled, keep them swaddled throughout their night feeds. Or if your baby is older, keep them in their sleeping bag. If you need to do a diaper change before or during their feed, re-swaddle them again or put them back in their sleeping bag as soon as they are changed.

Can cluster feeding last 12 hours? ›

Usually, cluster feeding lasts for a few days. How long your baby will cluster feed depends on the cause, though. You may find that your baby cluster feeds nonstop in the first few days of life as your milk comes in.

Why does my newborn want to nurse all night? ›

'It's really normal for babies to wake lots in the night to feed in the early weeks and months. This is part of newborn behaviour that ensures they get enough milk but also to keep them safe.

Is it normal for cluster feeding to last all day? ›

Cluster feeding sessions rarely last for more than two days. (If they go on for more than a week, check his weight; he may not be getting enough calories.) While it's almost impossible to get enough sleep when your baby is demanding a feeding every hour, try to relax and go with the flow — literally.

Is cluster feeding for 4 hours normal? ›

Cluster feeding shouldn't be an all-day or an all-night activity. It should only take up around 4 hours of your time. This may still seem like a long time to be tied up breastfeeding, but it may lead to a longer stretch of sleep and improved feeding habits.

How much cluster feeding is normal? ›

Evening Cluster Feeding

Some babies may want to nurse every 30 minutes to an hour in the evenings. This is normal, and it does not mean your baby isn't getting enough milk. It may just be your baby's way of filling up before a longer sleep at night.

Should I keep feeding during cluster feeding? ›

If it's milk supply then continue feeding until your supply is up or supplement with formula (see a lactation expert). Alternatively, if baby is going through a growth spurt then there's nothing to do but wait it out and feed baby as much as possible to keep them full and get your supply up to meet the demand.

How many times do babies feed during cluster feeding? ›

What is Cluster Feeding? Cluster feeding is pretty much what it sounds's back to back nursing sessions that your newborn can demand every 20 minutes to 2 hours. These feeds—one after another—help her boost your milk supply while she is going through a growth spurt.

Does cluster feeding cause gas? ›

The more often they eat, the more often the digestive issues, including the acidity are produced, which can increase gassiness and fussiness. Plus if they are only snacking then they will be hungry sooner, which can lead to shorter periods of sleep and an overtired baby.

How often should I pump during cluster feeding? ›

Your cluster pumping schedule

So basically you're going to pump every 5-10 minutes, every half an hour. Keep this going for 3 hours, and if possible repeat for 3 days in a row (or whatever works).


1. Cluster Feeding
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2. Cluster Feeding in Newborns | CloudMom
3. Cluster Feeding and Tips to Calming a Fussy Newborn | Dr. Amna Husain
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4. How To Use Cluster Feeding to Get Baby Sleeping All Night
(Chronicles of a Babywise Mom)
5. How To Manage Cluster Feeding? Must know details about cluster feeding
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6. What to Expect Breastfeeding on Day 5 | CLUSTER FEEDING, LET DOWNS, LEAKING MILK, CLOGGED DUCTS
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